Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How Do You Define What's Interesting About Your Company -- or how to separate news from snooze

The Wall St. Journal recently published an article entitled, "How to Score Press Coverage," that had a lot of good advice.

But one item is a bit more complex: to "pitch interesting things about your business."

Of course, you need to pitch interesting aspects of your business. But what's interesting can be very subjective.

We've seen some clients who think everything they do is interesting -- and others who think nothing they do is particularly interesting, even as they sell software that delivers on marketing's promises. (For example, we worked with a client who sold middleware software to large companies -- our client's software was vital to making things work, but was always referred to as the software equivalent of plumbing -- important but boring.)

Here are some questions to help make a determination about whether or not your story is interesting to outsiders:
  • Does it significantly impact a lot of people, a company or industry? For example, does your company, through its products or services, impact how consumers live their lives? Especially in terms of technology coverage, reporters are interested in consumer technology -- even though B2B technology generates more in annual sales -- especially gee-whiz technology, the latest cellphones, current apps, TVs, etc.
  • Does your company impact on how people work? To have a real chance for national coverage, the technology must be used directly by employees, not just by the IT department. Enterprise software can be absolutely "mission critical" but if no one but the CIO and the IT team know about it, it's going to be a tougher sell. Case studies and ROI metrics can help sell the story, but national media doesn't cover enterprise software itself -- they cover the big companies that make enterprise software.
  • Does your company involved in an interesting competitive battle? The media's interested in Google vs. Apple and Oracle vs. H-P vs. IBM but they're also interested in companies with huge ambitions that are trying to take on the Googles. Reporters may be interested if you can discuss why you're targeting the big players and can demonstrate/validate why you have a chance.
  • Does your company have an unusual story? Look at how it was founded (if it's a startup), how it's grown (if it's an emerging company), etc. Reporters often look for a human element in the stories they tell. What can you offer?
  • Can you portray your corporate story in a new light? Let's face it, humans have been fishing for thousands of years; and the fishing shows I saw when I was a kid were boring: a couple of guys sitting in a rowboat somewhere. But positioned as the World's Deadliest Catch, you've got a compelling show that offers an unusual look at gathering food. You don't need to position your company as the world's deadliest programming environment to get coverage. But you do need an angle.
  • What existing trends are you part of? Cloud services is a big area of interest. If you can tie your company to a hot trend, either further evidence of the trend or evidence that the trend is changing, you stand a chance of getting coverage.
  • Can you provide advice or tips to consumers or businesses? We live in an age where everyone's looking for tips, when so much of what we do entails rapidly evolving approaches. So if you can provide advice that can make sense of the world, people tend to be interested.
Of course, this list is not an exhaustive one, and it is focused on traditional media. For social media, you need to ask a different set of questions, with some overlap.

Ultimately the test of whether or not your story is interesting to the media depends on figuring out what's new and unusual about your story and why it matters for the broadest possible audience.

The above advice is based on a basic presentation I've delivered, Separating News from Snooze.

No comments: